Friday, August 15, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Ambidextrous kickers aren’t unusual for Hogs’ punter

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Sam Irwin-Hill arrived at Arkansas last year putting his best feet forward as he has since instructed as a lad by his dad Down Under.

The Ray Guy Award preseason watch list punter after averaging 44.3 yards per Razorbacks punt last season, including a SEC leading 20 downed inside the 20 with a career long 79-yard punt, Irwin-Hill kicked ambidextrously for the Hogs like he did the previous two junior college years at City College of San Francisco and practically all his life growing up in Bendingo, Australia.

“It came from Australian Rules Football,” Irwin-Hill said of kicking with either foot.

“When I was four or five my dad took me out to a field and said ‘Kick with both feet’ or else he would take me home. So it was a big deal.”

A big deal that quickly became bigger.

“I had a lot of inspiration,” Irwin-Hill said. “There were a lot of superstars in Australia who kicked with the left and right foot. So that’s where it came from and I thought it would be a big deal to introduce it to the American style of football and it has definitely played that way.”

Punt returners and the coaches designing schemes for them are bound to have some uncertainty from which foot an Irwin-Hill punt will be delivered even knowing they can guess “right” 75 percent of the time and probably will be correct guessing a higher right percentage this season.

“Last year it was probably 75/25 right foot,” Irwin-Hill said. “The dominant foot is the right foot. That’s where the strength comes from and I want to focus on the NFL traditional style. I practiced a lot more this summer on the more traditional style so I am really looking forward to put that more in the game this year.”

But not entirely. The unexpected angles from a surprise left-footed punt can “definitely” be more difficult to field, Irwin-Hill said and enhance the chances of pinning an opponent deep.

It also expands Coach Bret Bielema’s trick play options. A 6-3, 209 fine all-round athlete, Irwin-Hill off a fake punt completed a 24-yard pass for a first down last year and dashed 12 yards for a first down off a fake against Alabama and he’s ambidextrously adept at rugby-style punting.

“If we have that gap and there’s a little wind behind my back, Coach B has that confidence in me,” Irwin-Hill said of punting left-footed. “Or if there is a space open on that left side we could run the football. There are a lot of different things we can do and to have that versatility is really good.”

It’s more punter versatility than new special teams coach Rory Segrest has coached before.

“I can say I have not,” Segrest said of coaching an ambidextrous punter. “To me it’s a great talking piece, but I just want him kicking where they fair-catch. If it’s right-footed or left-footed or whatever it is just make sure to hang it up there in the right spot where they can’t return it.”

Most times last year that’s what Irwin-Hill achieved.

Just how did Arkansas and a San Francisco junior college before Arkansas and an Australian kicker get together?

“I did an academy in Australia called Pro Kick Australia,” Irwin-Hill said. “That was designed specifically to coach potential kickers and punters from Australian Rules to American football. I practiced in that academy for 12 months and sent over a video. I got a lot of attention from the videos but in terms of grades I had to go to a junior college and that’s where I ended up in San Francisco and I was more than happy to start my career there.”

And even happier to end up at Arkansas.

“Arkansas responded to the videos,” Irwin-Hill said. “I looked at Arkansas and I never looked back. I came straight here and I committed straightaway. It’s a great place.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears have big expectations

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway believes his Lady Bear volleyball team is poised for a run at a conference championship this season, but is careful to explain that he in no way thinks it will be easy.

Sylvan Hills has seven seniors, including six returning from last season, and got a head start on offseason workouts. The result has been positive.

“I had tryouts in March this year when I usually have them in May,” said Treadway. “Of course I had girls doing other things at the time, but I felt like getting the earlier start has us further along right now than we have been. We came in and went two days a week to the weight room, and two days we went and got on the floor. Then when we came back in July, I felt like some of them were stronger and some of them were faster. I felt like we had accomplished a lot by the time we left for summer break, and I think you could see that when we came back.”

It also helps that there are so many experienced players returning. With experience and improved athleticism and conditioning, Treadway hopes this is the year his squad can bring home the 5A-Central title.

“We’re not the kind of team that can go out there and just intimidate teams,” Treadway said. “We’re going to have to play. But if I had to pick a spot for us, based on how we played last year and how I think we’re capable of playing this year, I think we can compete for a conference championship. But we have to play like we’re capable of playing. If we don’t, we’re not so much better than everybody else that we can get by anyway. But if we play like I think we can, I think we could have a lot of success this year.”

Anchoring the lineup is three-year starter Brooke Rainey, who will rarely leave the court this season.

“When she’s on the front row she’ll be our main hitter,” Treadway says. “She’ll play all the way around, though.”

Aleah Williams also returns as a key hitter while Karley Walton and Jessica Scott are fellow seniors on the front row as middle blockers.

Jamie Willis was awarded the libero position for her skill and hard work this offseason.

“She has really stepped up,” Treadway said of Willis. “She probably worked harder than anyone else. Any time we were hitting, she got on the back and tried to dig balls. I didn’t even have to ask her. She was asking teammates to just throw balls at her. So when I issued uniforms, I gave her a regular one, and then about halfway through practice I presented her with the libero uniform, so that was kind of fun to reward her like that.”

Alisa Staton is a senior who is one of the setters, and Jennifer Markum is a back row player who sat out her junior year.

Two juniors will be in the rotation early, including Taylor Yoeman, who is the other setter, and back-row player Maddison Shelton.

Two other juniors round out the varsity roster and the JV unit will be made up of nine sophomores.

“Right now, because of the progress we made in spring and summer, we’re working a lot on timing,” Treadway said. “We’re trying to learn to play as a team, get comfortable with who’s next to you and learn what to expect from each other.

“I took notes at the team camp we went to at Greenbrier. I wrote down the things I thought needed to be addressed and that’s where we’re at. But I’m pretty optimistic about this season.

SPORTS STORY >> Week two sees a few shake-ups

Leader sports editor

Things can change daily during preseason football, and team makeup can change with it. There are also other facts and factors that come about that give a little more insight into how well or how badly a team may perform in the upcoming season.

Not all the facts can be known by anyone outside a team’s locker room, but a few things can be gleaned from the local team’s preseason so far.

Jacksonville’s numbers climb as participation increases and players are added to the team. A sophomore player from Camden-Fairview transferred in last week. It’s unknown how much he could contribute this season, but more is almost always better for any team struggling with numbers.

The Red Devils didn’t do much in week two as far as intense full-pad work. Most of the week was spent on putting in packages and “taxing them in the brain,” as coach Barry Hickingbotham put it.

Practice reports have been a bit more positive this week as well. After nothing but good reports for most of the summer and during the first few days of preseason, the last two practices of week one were not as spirited as coaches would like to see.

Reports about focus and energy levels in week two have been better.

Cabot practiced without two key defensive starters at part of last week. The team scrimmaged Wednesday afternoon without linebacker Jack Whisker and safety Jake Ferguson. Neither injury is serious and both are expected back.

What was most unusual about the scrimmage on Wednesday was when it was first-team offense vs. first-team defense, there were as many as six red jerseys on the field. Only sophomores wear red jerseys at Cabot practices. Cabot coach Mike Malham said that as many as four sophomores could start on defense, and the starting quarterback is the lone sophomore on offense. Having two players out showed just how much Cabot’s depth might depend on some of its youngest players this season.

North Pulaski really does have a chance to be better this year. Every camp is always optimistic in the preseason, and every preseason is a new reason to think North Pulaski can turn it around.

That isn’t to say the Falcons are a conference championship contender, but this team does have a legitimate chance to win three or four games this year. That is, if injuries are avoided.

There are only 35 players on the whole team and many are going to have to play offense and defense. But this group of starters is the best group since 2003. That NP team only won two games, but was in all of them and was in a conference that made up 75 percent of the state semifinals that season.

There’s also the issue of that mystical and perhaps mythical NP curse. Every year there are games the Falcons seem to have in the bag only to find a way to let the snipe loose. Two years ago it was at home against Sylvan Hills. Last year it was at McClellan. If they can find a way to hold on for a win early in the season, it could lead to good things.

The Beebe Badgers also have one of their most talented teams in a while, though they are also shallow up front. Beebe has a large senior class and a talented group of sophomores that won its conference championship a year ago as ninth-graders. But they also have their issues to deal with.

Beebe had its media day on Friday and the whole team didn’t show up. The non-participant was only one, but he’s a lineman and that’s where the team has the greatest depth concerns. Beebe coach John Shannon is well known to have strict rules concerning participation; so many more absences will make that unit even thinner.

Football teams also need to be tough, and several players’ mommas getting on the field during media/team picture day, interrupting, delaying and getting in the way of the professionals is not a sign of a tough team.

Hopefully those mothers have a better understanding of boundaries when it comes to letting the coaching staff do its job. If not, the talent and potential on this team won’t be realized.

It’s more of the same from Sylvan Hills. The new turf field is making progress, but it’s still questionable whether or not it will be ready in time for the team’s Blue-White intra-squad scrimmage. As far as the team’s progress, it’s still steady and not much as changed.

There’s been little question about this year’s offense. Everyone expects the Bears to move the ball and be good, but the defense is still a concern. Coaches are expressing a bit more confidence in the defense with each interview, but the results will have to be shown on the field.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot young but talented

Leader sports editor

A lot of new names dot the roster for the Cabot volleyball team, but they’d all be new to first-year coach Kham Chanthaphasouk anyway. In the first year of the three-year stint of former coach DeAnna Campbell, she started several sophomores and had the same core group all three years. That group graduated last season after showing steady progress all three years, now a new group with a new coach get to show how strong was the foundation laid by the previous group.

Early signs are good. The Lady Panthers have performed well at two team camps this month. They went 4-2 at the most recent camp at Benton High School, losing only to the camp host and Conway. At Arkansas State University, the Lady Panthers faced two defending state champions, beating 6A champ Jonesboro and losing to 4A champion Valley View, but competing well.

“I’ve been pretty pleased with our competitiveness at the camps,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We’ve gone up against some of the toughest competition available and we’ve competed really well and even had some success. We’re still a fairly young team and there’s a lot of room for improvement. That’s even more exciting.”

Though the team’s first match is only five days away, the new coach isn’t ready to name a starting lineup just yet. That first match is not an official one. It’s a benefit game at Conway, and the head Panther believes it will be a good measuring stick for his team’s progress.

“We played Conway at Benton and we lost to them,” Chanthaphasouk said. “That was two weeks ago, so it will have been almost three weeks by the time we play them, and I think it will be a good indicator of how we’ve come along since then.”

Though Chanthaphasouk won’t name a starting lineup, he is willing to name a few who will probably be in on the floor for the first serve.

“I’ve only got three seniors and they’re the only ones I can say for sure will be starters,” Chanthaphasouk said.

They’re also the only players that saw much of any varsity action last season. They are front-row players Haylee Callison and Kaitlyn Joyner, and back-row defensive specialist Tristen Roche.

Though only six can start, the head coach said it won’t be unusual to see 10 to 12 players in any given match.

“This team has good depth,” Chanthaphasouk said. “I plan to specialize a lot of girls. For example, if you’re not a good server, you won’t serve even if you’re a back row player. I want to utilize and maximize everyone’s strengths.”

Playing alongside those three seniors on the varsity squad will be six juniors and three sophomores. The juniors include outside hitters Kristen Walker and Tori Barnhill, defensive specialist Hayley Henry, setter Lauren Calhoun, DS and setter Haden Majors and West Virginia transfer Abbie Lippincott.

The sophomores are outside hitters Taylor Bell and Regan Campbell, and middle blocker Maddie Brown, who is already garnering lots of college attention.

“I feel comfortable saying those 12 will be the varsity squad to start the season,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We have 11 sophomores and I think we’re going to have a pretty talented junior varsity team, too. So it’s an exciting time here.

“I really want people to come out and check us out. It’s going to be a very competitive, exciting level of volleyball. A lot of times people think of volleyball, they think of church volleyball with people standing around like that. That’s not what’s going on here. It’s going to be an exciting season. If they’ll come watch us once, they’ll want to come back.”

EDITORIAL >> School-year excitement

As students return to school on Monday and Jacksonville voters count down to Sept. 16 to form their own district, we can’t recall a more exciting start to any school year.

Hundreds of residents, who are tired of poor test results and dilapidated schools, attended a community meeting this week bringing enough fervor to rival even a Tea Party rally, yet still with cordiality and optimism, showing that Jacksonville’s best days are not behind us.

If there’s a case to be made that the Little Rock-based district has something to offer Jacksonville, it hasn’t been added to the conversation. We can’t think of any.

The community seems to unanimously support breaking away from PCSSD. They were relieved when the state seized control of the district three years ago because the school board members had gone off the rails — trumped-up allegations of bribe taking, phony expense-account claims and one superintendent who wrote himself a check after being fired, to name just a few — while the district was going broke on projects like the $56 million Maumelle High School and a new $31.5 million Sylvan Hills Middle School. Meanwhile, schools in Jacksonville were lucky to get a fresh coat of paint and weeds removed from gutters.

The days of being ignored, disrespected and utterly abandoned by our own school district officials will be over if voters take to the polls on Sept. 16. Remember, too, that early voting starts Sept. 9.

We thank the many dedicated community members who never gave up on their dream of forming an independent school district:

Daniel Gray, who led last week’s forum, Pat O’Brien, Greg Bollen, Martha Whatley, Merlene McGhee, Deana Toney and Ron McDaniel, the Wilson family, Aldermen Reedie Ray, James Bolden, Bob Stroud and former Mayor Tommy Swaim, as well as Mayor Gary Fletcher.

The late Ben Rice, the prominent Jacksonville attorney, did yeoman work for decades, comparing Jacksonville to the Israelites wandering in the desert. It’s too bad he didn’t live long enough to see the results of his hard work and dedication to the children of north Pulaski County.

Their efforts would likely have been quashed without the support of the state-appointed interim superintendent of PCSSD, Jerry Guess, and razor-sharp Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., who is handling the federal desegregation case. (We recall a previous judge having little understanding of the desegregation case and even less recognition of Jacksonville’s plight.) Perhaps some new schools should be named in their honor.

But when we get our own district after the election, the real work will have just begun.

There will be challenges and problems, negotiations with PCSSD over debt and assets like school buses; negotiations with teachers and probably with teachers’ unions; questions about curriculum and what new schools to build and where.

First, vote on Sept. 16 or before, and let’s show how much this means to Jacksonville.

After that, a panel that the state Board of Education approved Thursday will work to appoint the new district’s first school board.

Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Mayor Fletcher, Rep. Doug House, who is a north Pulaski County Republican, Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Pulaski County JP Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) and Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) will be in charge of finding qualified school board members, who will likely be many of the people who have worked hard to break away from PCSSD.

The new district will include a huge portion of north Pulaski County, extending north of Gravel Ridge to the Lonoke County line and nearly to Hwy. 5. It will include Homer Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Tolleson, Arnold Drive and Warren Dupree elementary schools, Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School.

Anyone with children in these schools, or merely a property owner near them, has a stake in this fight because, when schools successfully educate children, families will follow, boosting home values and ultimately improving the local economy.

Jacksonville’s future is on the line, and its residents have never had a better chance to make things fairer and more equitable.

After all, their tax dollars will no longer be sent out of town to pay for schools elsewhere if they take to the polls and vote PCSSD out of town. Our time is here.

TOP STORY >> Lengthy Hwy. 67/167 work begins

Construction to widen Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville got underway this week as part of a multi-year project to widen the aging highway and improve traffic flow between Jacksonville and Cabot and beyond.

The James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., is working to replace the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses for $42 million. The new ones will be wider, with three lanes of traffic north and south, along with a substantial shoulder at Main Street.

The company will also build new approaches and ramps for the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses as well as a new stretch of highway between them.

The work will cause delays for thousands of drivers every day, and about 5,000 vehicles a day will have to find alternative routes off the highway on Municipal Drive past city hall and the community center.

Hwy. 161 to or from I-40, by using Hwy. 440, may provide an alternative route.

The widening will continue from Main Street to Vandenberg Boulevard for $61 million starting in 2016.

By 2019, the highway from Jacksonville to Hwy. 5 in Cabot should be complete at a cost of $70 million. A $20 million north interchange between Cabot and Austin is expected to improve traffic and economic development in the area. It should be complete in 2018.

Before the widening starts, two lanes deep in each direction will be resurfaced by Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal, Mo., for $2.69 million.

Work to widen the highway from Main Street to Vandenberg will begin in two years, when the work will be completed on the Redmond Road-Main Street section.

The highway is already six lanes from North Little Rock to Redmond Road and will eventually have six lanes to Searcy and beyond.

TOP STORY >> Amy Sanders’ 90th birthday

Leader staff writer

At least 100 people came to a party at Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood last Saturday to wish its namesake a happy 90th birthday. Amy Sanders served as city clerk from 1973 until her retirement in 1987.

Former alderman Butch Davis, who is now running for his old seat against Alderman Mary Jo Heye, summed up his longtime friend in a few words. “She’s a busy bee,” he said.

Mayor Virginia Hillman acknowledged Sanders’ Aug. 4 birthday by reading a proclamation. “She means a lot of things to a lot of people. She’s done so much for us,” the mayor said before reading the document.

Sanders hired Hillman in 1986 for the city’s first accounts payable clerk position.

Bernard Olds, Sherwood’s first mailman and a former firefighter, told The Leader that he “couldn’t ask for anything better” than to have known Sanders for so many years.

Olds circulated the petitions needed for the city to become incorporated. He is also a World War II Army veteran.

Ron Duran, whose parents helped found Sherwood by pushing for its incorporation, remembered how nice Sanders was to him when he went to her house for sleepovers with her son. She was an inspiration to him, Duran said.

He has been an active participant in Sherwood’s history, especially through working for the city and volunteering in the community.

Sanders said after the proclamation reading, “This is one of many honors I’ve received in my lifetime and I certainly appreciate all of them.”

The room burst into laughter when she added, “Maybe I’ll receive more.”

Her service to the community didn’t start with the 14-year city clerk post or stop when she stepped down.

Sanders moved to what is now Sherwood in 1947. The city was incorporated a year later.

Volunteering has been her cup of tea from “early on,” she said. She was one of the 45 to 50 members of the Country Club Manor Home Demonstration Club.

That organization was a precursor of the Extension Homemakers still around today.

The demonstration club did things like dye Easter eggs and collect for the March of Dimes to fight “rampant” polio.

When she became city clerk, Sanders said there was only one other person in that office.

The functions of many departments that exist now used to be handled in that office, she continued. By the time Sanders retired, she said, it had a staff of eight to 10.

She saw so many changes while serving the city. Sanders said, “We grew and grew and grew to what we are now.”
Most of that growth was done through voluntary annexations, she said.

Sherwood’s growth gained more guidance and became more organized over the years, Sanders said.

She remembered how the North Hills area and Kiehl Avenue weren’t in the city at first.

Sanders said former Mayor Bill Henson, who served from 1965 until 1982, “set the stage for what Sherwood is now” by buying land on Kiehl, where the city’s municipal complex was built. She was city clerk when the office moved to that complex in 1983.

But all the mayors “had good attributes,” Sanders noted.

After she retired as city clerk, Sanders served as chairman of the Advertising and Promotions Commission. She is a Sewer Committee member today.

Sanders recalled how the hamburger tax voters approved back then was used to fund Sherwood’s ball fields.

The city mother also said she was shocked when the city council decided to name the library after her. They passed a resolution to do so in 1988, and the building at 31 Shelby Drive opened in 1989.

Sanders is a staunch supporter of a temporary 1.3-mill increase to fund a new $6 million library. The tax, which would expire when bonds for the project are paid off, will be voted on in November.

For the owners of $150,000 houses, a positive vote for constructing and equipping a new branch would mean a $39 increase to the 50.8-mill property tax homeowners are paying now. Sherwood’s millage rate is the second lowest in Pulaski County.

The 1.3 mills would also be charged on personal property, like cars and boats, at a rate of $13 for every $10,000 in the assessed value of that property.

Sanders told The Leader previously, “We desperately need a new library. We have outgrown this one, especially with the children. There is so much activity at the library. People use it so much...It’s just outdated in every way, and it cannot be added onto.”

She also said then, “It would certainly be an asset for Sherwood” as people looking at moving to the city would take the library into consideration.

But why did Sanders stay when she moved to the area?

She said, “I think the people are outstanding…It’s been a wonderful place to raise children.” Sherwood also had a low crime rate, which is a credit to its police department, Sanders added.

She continued, “I stand behind Sherwood and I think it’s a fabulous place to live. The people are so very, very nice. They’re just people you want to be around.”

Sanders was married to Reo Sanders for 62 years, until he passed away in 2007. They had a daughter and a son.

Sanders has seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, ages 5-19. Many of them attended her birthday party.

The city mother is well known for her cooking, which she said she loves to do.

Sanders is also involved in church activities.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FEATURED STORY >> Cabot couple to reopen White River Theater

Heather Moore of Cabot had a vision of bringing to Mountain View a family-friendly show honoring the military.

The doors of the famous Cash’s White River Theater (formerly Cash’s Hoedown) will once again reopen this weekend thanks in large part to Moore.

The theater had been closed for more than a year, and the town was missing the lights and sounds of music and comedy that once graced its stage.

Now, the Cash’s White River Theater will present new talent and more multimedia performances.

It all started about two months ago, when Moore and her husband, Dane, went on a trip to Mountain View.

The Moores are known for founding the annual Cabot Community Thanksgiving Feast.

She asked the famous Aunt Minnie at Aunt Minnie’s Yellow House (a local store owned and operated by the former first lady of Mountain View Comedy), “Are you still doing shows at the theater?”

 “No, we have decided to retire” was the answer.

Moore then asked, “Is your theater for sale?” Those two questions led to the reopening of the Cash’s White River Theater.

The theater, at 507 Sylamore Ave. in downtown Mountain View, will host a friend of Moore’s as a performer — Michael Kelley and his show, “Voices That Change.”

Kelley will perform at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday — Mountains, Music and Motorcycles weekend in Mountain View.

Kelley has more than 20 years of experience performing vocal impressions for our troops with the USO and performing on various cruise lines. He uses this experience along with his varied vocal talents to give a funny and entertaining experience to his audiences. “Voices That Change” is a family-friendly, Las Vegas-style show that will keep the audience laughing with Kelley’s comedy, audience participation and numerous vocal impressions.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 870-214-2326 or visit the box office. General admission tickets are $18 (children, senior and active/retired military discounts are available).

FEATURED STORY >> Jacksonville to lose traffic light

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council on Thursday approved the removal of the traffic light at the intersection of West Main and Bailey streets.

Before the vote, City Engineer Jay Whisker said he had looked at traffic counts to determine whether the light was needed.

The intersection did not meet any of the eight reasons to have a traffic light, according to the “Manual Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” Whisker said.

Once the light is removed, two stop signs will be placed on Bailey Street — one for northbound and one for southbound traffic.

Traffic on West Main Street will flow freely.

Preston Robinson said during the public hearing, “I go through that light every day, two times minimum, weekends included. I have called repeatedly, long before this administration. (Public Works Director) Jimmy Oakley, I even loaded him up in my truck, and I said ‘please come look at this light.’ It drives me crazy…That light needs to go, please.”
Director of Administration Jim Durham, tongue-in-cheek, seconded his comment.

Jason Kennedy with Rice & Adams law firm, which has been at 501 West Main St. for 40 years, said, “We are in full support of removal of the stoplight, and we hope that will pave the way for additional improvements to that intersection.” He noted that something should be done about the “weird geometry” and foot traffic there.

Durham said he talked to Larry Wilson of First Arkansas Bank and Trust. The bank’s main branch is at that intersection. Wilson supports removal as well, Durham said.

He added that the light doesn’t trip correctly for drivers on Bailey Street and the intersection has a sidewalk on the south side that goes nowhere.

Durham said people in wheelchairs get off that sidewalk, go up Bailey Street and cut across Rice & Adams law firm’s parking lot to reconnect onto another sidewalk.

The city administrator said he wants to redo the island, add a curb cut for wheelchairs and connect the sidewalks.

He said Wilson had spoken to him about wanting to decorate his side of the intersection.
Alderman Barbara Mash-burn said the light has caused several accidents, according to statistics provided by interim Police Chief Kenny Boyd, and that it needed to go.

Whisker was asked if this would cause a problem for people who cross the street at the light.

He and Mashburn agreed that most walkers don’t cross there. Instead, they cross farther
down the street — from the library to Wendy’s.

In other business:

• The council approved the comprehensive annual financial report for the year that ended Dec. 31.

Aldermen were told an independent auditor found that Jacksonville’s statements and documents accurately reflected the city’s financial position for 2013.

That year is the 17th consecutive year a comprehensive annual financial report was prepared.

Reports from 1997 through 2012 have been awarded the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada certificate of excellence in financial reporting. The 2013 report has been submitted for consideration for the same award.

The report states that Jacksonville spent $1.08 million in federal funds and complied with each federal program that awarded those funds.

The city’s total assets were $63.43 million at the end of 2013, a decrease of $605,000 from 2012. Its liabilities were $14.27 million, an increase of $970,000 from 2012.

Total assets exceeded liabilities by $49.15 million by the end of 2013. That figure is the city’s total net position, which was down by $1.57 million from 2012.

Jacksonville’s revenues totaled $22.8 million for 2013. Expenditures were $27.9 million. Reserves were used to balance the budget.

Of the revenues, $13.16 million was generated by the sales tax, an increase of 0.2 percent from the 2012 figure of $13.13 million.

State tax turnback funds and other intergovernmental revenues generated $4.7 million, and utility franchise taxes were a little under $1.3 million.

The report notes that the city’s goal should be to have at least 60 days worth of expenditures by the end of the year based on the most recently completed year. Jacksonville had just 53 days’ worth at the end of 2013.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “The bottom line that the citizens need to know is just how financially strong the city has been.”

The auditor said the city’s financial position has decreased in recent years, as Jacksonville has had to dip into its reserves to balance budgets.

Fletcher said, “We’re doing what a lot of cities are doing. In fact, many states are having serious issues as well…It’s a tough economy, for one thing.”

But he added that he is optimistic about some things “coming down the pipeline” that will expand the local tax base.

The auditor agreed that Jacksonville is not the only entity facing shortfalls.

• The council adopted a resolution transferring ownership and responsibility of retiring canine officer Roby to his handler, Officer Regina Boyd.

• The council passed an ordinance establishing a franchise agreement with Windstream Communications.

The company will be charged at the same annual rate of 4.25 percent that other utilities pay to the city.

FEATURED STORY >> Help save WWI historical items

 This photo from the Museum of American History in Cabot shows World War I Soldiers who might be from Lonoke County. The museum's curator, Mike Polston, is asking the public to help identify the men.

Museum of American History in Cabot

History is lost every day. Thrown away, destroyed or just forgotten, if not somehow recorded.

These two recently discovered photos are examples of lost history. While the photos record the appearance of these soldiers of World War I, they don’t record where they were from or even who they are — lost history.

The group photo does have the last names of the soldiers inscribed on the back in faint ink, but no first names. The information on the back is as follows: Left to Right Pvt. Craig, Sgt._____, Pvt.______, Pvt. Tipton, Corp. Blackwood.

Perhaps a reader can help identify these young soldiers. If you can shed some light on their identity, contact Mike Polston at 501-286-9665 or Sherryl Miller at 501-676-6750.

These photos are a part of the joint project of the Lonoke County Museum in Lonoke and the Museum of American History in Cabot to preserve the World War I history of Arkansas.

The staffs of the museums are asking that people who have diaries, letters, documents, photos or stories of Arkansas soldiers who served in the war and would like to keep history from being lost to contact the museums. 

Hopefully, people will donate the original items so they can be cared for and preserved for future generations. If donation is not an option, the museums would like to preserve copies of the material. Diaries and letters will be transcribed and photos copied and returned to the owners. Artifacts such as uniforms and war souvenirs will also be gladly accepted to be displayed at the museums.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

EDITORIAL >> The future is up to us

We’ve said it before: Jacksonville puts “unity” in community.

Finally, local control of our schools is within our grasp.

In the decades-long quest for a stand-alone Jacksonville-north Pulaski County school district, 400 people gave a preview of things to come at Monday’s meeting, when they pitched in $4,000 for printed materials to get out the “for” vote for the Sept. 16 school election that has school detachment on the ballot.

Thanks to more people than we can name or count, only the Sept. 16 referendum on the school election ballot now stands between local residents and their own Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district.

Jacksonville has a history of putting its money where its mouth is, and we expect this group to overwhelmingly approve the new district and, if necessary in the future, we expect them to raise their own property taxes.

That’s what you did to raise $5 million to pay your share of the Joint Education Center on the base, and that’s what you did to build a swimming park for your kids.

This is a community that brought what is now the world’s premier C-130 base to Jacksonville in 1955 and has been recognized as the most supportive community attached to an air mobility wing more than once.

The 30-year school district effort is finally paying off. After decades of declining enrollment in the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville and parts of north Pulaski County will have approximately 4,400 students and the chance to build a new high school plus, perhaps, even a new elementary school.

At least three generations of Jacksonville residents have campaigned for the creation of a separate school district, including former Representatives Pat Bond, and her son, Will, who pushed through legislation that allowed Jacksonville to leave the Pulaski County Special School District.

Mayor Gary Fletcher has seldom missed a meeting or a court date related to a new Jacksonville district. Let’s also credit younger people like attorney Patrick Wilson and Realtor Daniel Gray, who both grew up in Jacksonville, for pushing the issue on toward the finish line, through the courts and the state Board of Education.

We see no downside to a stand-alone district.

Without reservation, voters should approve the split so Jacksonville can continue to improve its schools, which will ultimately boost the city’s population and lead to an economic revival.

The old PCSSD board was tricked and bullied into building a new $56 million Maumelle High School by Tim Clark, who represented that area, while the Little Rock-based PCSSD has not built a new school in Jacksonville in about 30 years. Deteriorating facilities are not its only problem: Poor test scores, too, show that it is time for a change.

Decisions like the new Maumelle school helped sink the district financially and led the state to disband the school board and take over the district in 2011.

The failure of Jacksonville schools has sent many families north to Cabot, where new schools open almost every year.

On Monday, the first day of classes, a new $22 million Cabot Freshmen Academy will open. We believe, in five years or less, Jacksonville will also celebrate the opening of a new school.

A recent study shows that Jacksonville has a sufficient tax base to support its own district. But, if a locally controlled school board decides to ask voters to approve a property-tax increase so the fledgling district can build modern schools that the community will be proud of, we will support that, too.

If all the decrepit 40-year-old school buildings are to be replaced, we’re likely to need a millage increase down the road. Jacksonville’s residents have been generous about funding things for their children and to better education.

Vote for a detached Jacksonville-North Pulaski school district Sept. 16 — early voting starts Sept. 9 — and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

TOP STORY >> Genocide threatens minorities

Leader editor

“They were trying to kill us because we were Christians.”
—Teenage girl from Homs, Syria

A huge humanitarian disaster was unfolding last month while the western world and much of the media looked away. They focused on a tiny area on the Mediterranean controlled by a group of Moslem fanatics, who have held their own people hostage while provoking another senseless war with Israel.

Western media have long been sympathetic toward the plight of the Palestinians, while downplaying Hamas’ cynical strategy of urban warfare that inevitably leads to civilian deaths.

Until recently, the media ignored the genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, where Islamists want to destroy the ancient Christian communities as much as they want to destroy Israel.

Hamas started another war it could not win. Much of Gaza is in ruins. At least 1,900 Palestinians are dead — about half of them Hamas fighters — but in July and early August, the media concentrated on the carnage in Gaza, while hundreds of thousands of Christians, Kurds and Arabs from small sects in Iraq and Syria were murdered, forced to flee or convert to Islam.

The terrible details are just emerging: Many victims were beheaded. Others were buried alive. Some were crucified. Hundreds of women have been kidnapped to become concubines.

The Christian community has been forced out of Mosul. Their churches have been turned into mosques. The Syrian Orthodox bishop there says his people are victims of genocide.

Those who stayed and couldn’t pay a $350 tax on infidels had to convert.

Violence continues to spread throughout Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. The world’s media are just catching on to the unfolding disaster.

But, until last weekend, you probably hadn’t heard much about the genocide in those war-torn areas.

There was not much reporting in the western media about the destruction of Christian communities in Syria and Iraq. You may have found out about the violence by following Christian websites, which were among the first to report the mindless destruction of ancient communities, along with Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh.

Washington and the world community are finally promising aid to the beleaguered people.
In the mountains of northwest Iraq, as many as 500,000 Yazidis face extinction as a fanatical army of Moslem extremists advance on their communities.

The Islamic State militia considers Yazidis devil worshippers, but they’re now getting help: C-130s are dropping badly needed supplies for Yazidis, who are being rescued from mountaintops.

Yazidi families on the run from ISIS are often separated in the desert, their women taken captive and relatives frantically trying to find them in the scorching heat.

“There are many missing, many” a man who lost his 17-year-old son while fleeing  gunmen told the Associated Press on Monday.

The media usually miss the big story until it’s too late. Maybe it’s not too late this time.

The Obama administration announced over the weekend that we’ll help resettle the Yazidis, who have lived in the area for hundreds of years and helped the U.S. military topple Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. must find new homes for them while we bomb ISIS militants. We’re not leaving Iraq behind anytime soon.

The administration will also arm the long-suffering Kurds, who have fought Arab extremists for decades and have formed their own independent nation of Kurdistan in an area that straddles Iraq and Syria. They deserve our help.

The bombing campaign against ISIS could take months, and, even if it succeeds, Sunnis, Shiite, Kurds and others hope to set up their own self-governing regions.

There’s no easy way out, as President Obama has realized, but we cannot leave hundreds of thousands of innocent people behind who are threatened with another genocide.

Southerners especially, who are strong supporters of Israel, should pressure their representatives on the behalf of fellow Christians in the Middle East who are as threatened as the people of Israel.

TOP STORY >> Ward voters to decide sale-tax hike

Leader staff writer

Ward voters will decide in the November general election if they want a one-cent sales tax increase.

The city council voted 5-1 Monday night to put the tax revenue into the general fund, reversing a sales tax committee recommendation held last week to split the proceeds into two half-cent sales taxes — one for the street department and the other for the parks department.

Mayor Art Brooke told the council he did not want to tie the hands of the next mayor or city council members with the sales tax specifically designated for the streets or the parks. He said Ward would continue to grow. The council needs the flexibility to maintain, develop and institute programs while making changes to the budget throughout the year, he said.

Alderman Jeff Shaver was concerned about the future growth of Ward. He said that, after the parks are built and streets are maintained, extra money could not be touched because it is for the parks and the streets. He said the tax money could be used for extra police protection if needed.

“I would make the recommendation we go with a one-percent sales tax to be used in the general fund to support the (parks and street department). If (the voters) turn that down, we’re back to square one. That limits and severely handicaps future growth of our city. Our city has grown by leaps and bounds, and we need to take action,” Brooke said.

Alderman Charles Gastineau was the only vote against the sales tax to raise funds for the street department and the parks department. He wanted to look at a bond issue instead.

“I’m not satisfied with our exploring alternative avenues of revenue. We’re up against a time crunch here (to be on the November ballot). I don’t know why this was brought on just last month.”

Operations manager Debra Staley said, “For borrowing any money through a bank or a bond issue, we have to have a revenue stream showing that we can pay it back. Charlie, we don’t have a revenue stream showing we can pay it back.

“If the tax issue is passed, we can develop, build and pay as we go, according to the growth of the city. We can go out and build $2 million of stuff that nobody ever uses, and we’re still going to have the bill. If we go out and borrow the money, we still got to pay the interest,” the mayor said.

“We are at a point that we can’t progress in doing the things that are still needed for long-term growth in the city,” he added.

Brooke said, if the tax issue passes, in five years the city could look at passing a bond issue.

Street Department Superintendent Billy Mitts talked about why the sales tax increase is need for the street department.

“Ward consists of 114 streets, a third of the streets need attention, overlaying, paving or widening,” Mitts said.

Mitts said the cost of repairing 38 streets is $1.6 million. He said there is also a bridge on Spring Street that needs attention due to erosion.

There are 12 culverts that are deteriorating and 20 storm drains that are crushed in. There are an estimated 200 potholes that need filling, and 100 signs need to be maintained.

All the repairs are made by street department workers.

Mitts said the average cost to pave a street that is 22-feet wide and 2,000-feet long is $45,752. It requires 532 tons of asphalt that costs between $75 and $86 a ton.

According to Mitts, the street department is responsible for street maintenance, parking areas, ditches, bridges, culverts, sidewalks and mosquito control plus building maintenance of the Ward Municipal Complex, the animal shelter and the sewer treatment facility.

The department also does vehicle maintenance. He said the street department helps the parks department with maintenance, during special events, and storm damage cleanup. 

Parks director Ricci Brooke explained why more sales-tax revenue is needed for the parks. She said the city has three parks: Busby Lake, Ward Dog Park and Willow Lakes. Ricci Brooke would like to add playground equipment to Busby Lake.

She said Willow Lakes Pond has not been restocked with fish in several years. Walking trails with exercise stations are planned for the park.

She said the Ward Sports Complex needs two more ball field for a total of four.

Ricci Brooke said more parking spaces and permanent soccer fields are also needed.

The estimated cost for a new concession stand and restrooms is $94,700.

Extra sales-tax revenue will also allow the parks department to expand the sports complex by buying adjacent property in the future. 

TOP STORY >> District supporters upbeat on election

Leader senior staff writer

Part informative, part pep rally and part camp meeting, a gathering of about 400 people crowded into the Jacksonville Community Center on Monday night to kick off the effort to get voter approval for a stand-alone Jacksonville-north Pulaski County school district.

In an effort first envisioned 36 years ago, and with early architects of a Jacksonville district like former state Rep. Pat Bond (D-Jacksonville) sitting quietly — but not unacknowledged — in the crowd, more recent leaders, such as Jacksonville Education Corps president Daniel Gray, state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), former Pulaski County Special School District board members Pat O’Brien and Alderman James Bolden, current Citizens Advisory Board member Ronald McDaniel and Jacksonville NAACP chairman Ivory Tillman spoke with fervor in favor of the proposed district. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

“I’m excited,” Bond said after the meeting. “I never thought I’d see this.”

It was Pat Bond, who, in 2001, passed legislation allowing the city to form a separate school district. Later, her son and successor, state Rep. Will Bond (D-Jacksonville), passed legislation to pay for a feasibility study and also to pay some attorneys’ fees toward resolving the desegregation settlement.

Also acknowledged, post-mortem, was Jacksonville attorney Ben Rice, who was a tireless advocate. Rice died in March 2013.

Pat Bond’s first meeting, at Jacksonville Elementary School in 1978, raised $125 toward getting a new district.

RAISED $4,000

Monday night, with the aid of professional plate passers like Rev. Bolden, the crowd ponied up $4,000 toward printing literature and signs urging registered voters living in the proposed district to vote for it when the school election is held Sept. 16.

The district includes Homer Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Tolleson, Arnold Drive and Warren Dupree elementary schools; Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School.

Early voting for the school election begins Sept. 9. If the measure passed, the law allows for up to a two-year transition period. Until the actual separation, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess will lead both districts. Gray has said the 2014-15 school year would be transitional.

The first vote on this issue was also set for Sept. 16, 12 years to the day before this year’s election. It was cancelled by U.S. Dist. Judge Bill Wilson after the oftenly-fractious PCSSD School Board challenged the detachment election in court.

In all, new district proponents ordered and paid for five feasibility studies, all of which concluded that Jacksonville could afford its own district, won’t harm desegregation efforts and PCSSD could afford to do without it.


In fact, the most recent study showed that PCSSD could get unitary status in the desegregation case faster without Jacksonville. That makes PCSSD a partner in the effort for Jacksonville detachment.

The most difficult and expensive remaining hurdle to PCSSD being declared unitary is replacement of old decrepit school buildings, many of which are in the Jacksonville area.

When the state partners with PCSSD on building a new school, it pays pretty close to nothing because Pulaski County — with Maumelle, Little Rock and North Little Rock in it — is high on the wealth index, former PCSSD Superintendent Bobby Lester reminded the group last night. But the state will kick in 50 percent or more on approved new school buildings in the Jacksonville area, which is much lower on the index.


So, if PCSSD built a $50 million high school for Jacksonville, it would have to foot the entire bill. If a Jacksonville-north Pulaski district built the same school, it would only pay $25 million or less, with the state picking up the remaining balance.

That’s why, in April 2012, PCSSD — whose board was disbanded in June 2011 after a fiscal distress finding   —submitted a brief in favor of detachment.

Instead of Jacksonville schools getting only a tiny slice of the PCSSD facilities-expenditure pie chart, all local tax dollars will be used locally, Perry told the crowd. All school board members would also be locals. “Local control — it’s a common sense approach,” Perry said.


Gray said students would be able to have more curriculum choices than they have now.

“Our facilities are deplorable,” he said. And, speaking as a Realtor, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” noting that when people relocating to the area see Jacksonville’s cobbled together 50-year-old schools, they choose to live elsewhere, which often means Cabot.

“Our kids deserve world-class facilities,” he concluded.

McDaniel said, “We will be the decision makers on this side of the river. We will decide on spending tax dollars, on curriculum and rehabilitating facilities.”

Tillman said, “It takes a village. I’ve never seen a new district started (in Arkansas).” He’d only seen consolidation and annexation.

In asking for contributions, Gray said “We don’t just want to win, we want to win overwhelmingly.”


Jada Ellis, volunteer coordinator for the school election, asked people to sign up to make phone calls to get people to come to the polls. Aug. 18 is the last opportunity to register to vote in the school election.

In a question-and-answer period, several people wanted to know if Jacksonville would be able to afford good teachers at a competitive salary.

The feasibility study showed the district could afford teachers at the current rate. Raises or changes would be made either by the school board appointed by the state for the first year, or, after that, a local school board elected by residents, Gray said.

Bolden said, “When I was on the school board, Jacksonville had only one representative. We got screwed. We’re going to take care of our teachers.”

People also wanted to know if Jacksonville-area residents will be stuck with a remaining share of the bill for the expensive new Maumelle High School many believe was rammed down their throats. Decisions like dividing assets and debt will be made during the transitional year if the ballot measure passes.

SPORTS STORY >> Breaking in sophmores is goal in Cabot practices

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football team spent the first day of practice in pads mostly separated into units, but got together on Monday for a short scrimmage at the end of practice. There were four sophomores starting on defense in that first scrimmage, but it was the lone sophomore starter on offense that made the immediate splash.

Quarterback Jarrod Barnes scored on the first play on an option keep. Cabot coach Mike Malham had previously expressed optimism about Barnes’ potential, and continued to do so, but said the youth on defense contributed to the big play.

“Just a lot of green over on defense,” said Malham. “And it’s not just sophomores. We’ve got four seniors on defense who started some last year. Other than that we’ve got seven new faces over there with four of them sophomores.”

Dylan Smith is one sophomore starting at strong safety. Easton Seidl joins senior Jack Whisker at one of the inside linebacker positions. Colin Thompson is starting at one defensive end and Jack Teague is at the other. Two other sophomores, Connor Daigle and Cody Neighbors, are rotating in at linebacker as well.

On offense, Christopher Jones got a chance to play with the first string on offense and got a good report from Malham.

“We moved him in there yesterday to see what he could do and he looked pretty good – made some plays for us on the line,” Malham said.

While only one sophomore is penciled in as a starter on offense, there are eight new starters, meaning 15 of the 22 starters are new faces.

“Right now it’s just rep, rep, rep trying to get it in their heads how to do it right every time,” Malham said.

Cabot’s offensive backfield isn’t as fast as last year’s group, but the coach is still excited about its potential.

“I think we’ll be alright there,” Malham said. “We don’t have anybody with the speed of Zach Launius or Chris Henry, but we’ve got some speed. We’re not going to be a slow group.”

The Panthers will scrimmage again at the end of practice today. There will be a red-white game and the annual controlled scrimmage against Lake Hamilton, but Malham says the true indicator will be the week-one matchup with Conway.

“Conway is going to be good,” Malham said. “We’ll get a pretty good idea of where we’re at after that game. If we can play with them, I think we’ll be able to play with just about anybody.”

SPORTS STORY >> Devils slow in midnight scrimmage

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville football team had its first Midnight Madness practice Saturday morning, starting workouts the first minute of the day and finishing about 1:45. Players were excited at the beginning of practice, but by the time they joined offense and defense on the field, the excitement had worn off.

“I think they were ready to go at the start,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “They had the wow factor going and were alert and ready. That lasted about 45 minutes and then it got a little sluggish.”

Hickingbotham didn’t limit his critique to any one unit or side of the ball. Offensive execution wasn’t sharp and defensive ball pursuit was lacking.

“We’re trying to get it across to them that everybody has to go hard every play,” Hickingbotham said. “When we watch film we’re making the point that we want to see 11 defenders in the shot around the ball, at least getting there, hustling to that ball on every play.”

The first-year head coach believes that establishing a ground game is crucial to a good offense, and saw that as the first point of emphasis after the first full-pad scrimmage.

“We didn’t look very good in the run game,” Hickingbotham said. “The good thing about it is we got it all on film. We looked at it, we identified the areas that need work, and now we’re addressing it.”

Another piece of good news is that the Red Devils’ total numbers are up to 58.

The bad news is there hasn’t been 100 percent participation since practice began last Monday. It’s not an uncommon occurrence at Jacksonville, but it’s something Hickingbotham wants to make much less common.

“They understand there are consequences and repercussions for not being here,” Hickingbotham said. “Or they’re going to understand it. We call them counseling sessions. All the captains are there and we all have a part in taking care of team issues. The captains understand that whatever the team policy is for breaking a team rule, theirs is doubled.

“They understood that when we voted on captains and they had the opportunity not to accept. They all accepted and we’re moving forward with these policies.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke dealing with few bodies

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits kicked off their second week of fall practice in the afternoon Monday, and with the start of the new school year quickly approaching, head coach Doug Bost would like to get his team acclimated to the August heat.

“It was a little sluggish today,” said Bost on Monday, “but it was a little bit warm this afternoon. We were going in the morning for the majority of the time last week. We’re out here in the heat of the day, but that’s something they’ve got to get used to with school starting a week from today. This is the time we’ll be out here.”

Bost has about 40 kids on this year’s roster, and pointed out some of his seniors that have stepped up and led by example throughout fall practice sessions.

“Dylan Goforth and Chandler Elmore, that’s two of our seniors,” Bost said. “They’ve been three-year starters for us. They’re not just real vocal, but they lead by example. They always do everything right.

“They’re yes sir-, no sir-type kids, and they just work hard, and I think that rubs off on the other kids when they see how hard they work.”

The low numbers on this year’s Jackrabbit squad has been a challenge for Bost and his staff to put together a formidable scout team that can challenge his first-team offense and defense, something Bost says is crucial to his team’s success.

“You always like to have more, and it makes it tough when you want to put a quality scout team out there,” Bost said. “That’s what makes you good when you have a quality scout team that pushes you. That’s what we want, but we’re kind of low on some numbers.”
Bost said his team has worked thoroughly on all three aspects of the game – offense, defense and special teams, but he added that the kicking game will need some serious work before the first regular-season game next month.

“You know, three-hour practice, it’s been pretty even across the board working all three of those phases,” Bost said. “Of course, you know, offense and defense you do all summer long with camps and 7-on-7s; special teams, we just started working on those last week.
“That’s a very important part of the game and it gets some kids that maybe don’t start on offense or defense, but work hard, we try to get them on the field some. So we take a lot of pride in special teams, but where we’re hurting is kicking.

“We had Jose (Garcia) the last couple of years. He was good on kickoff and real good on field goals. We’re struggling in that department right now.”

Bost said starting tackle Jacob Vandiver and Trey Bevis, among others, are working at the position, but the competition for the starting spot there is still very much up for grabs.

As far as what Bost would like his team to get out of the second week of practice, he wants his players to be able to get adjusted to the heat and continue to improve its conditioning, as well as every other aspect of the game on offense, defense and special teams.

“Conditioning and getting adjusted to the heat,” Bost said of areas his team needs to improve upon. “Like I said, when you go in the afternoon like this, it’s how you’re going to do it when school starts. So we got to get adjusted. We go one more afternoon (Tuesday), then we’re back at 8 o’clock (a.m.) for the next three days.

“Just getting used to the heat, because I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the heat right now. We haven’t even had a 100-degree day. I think when school starts we’re going to have that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bison’s big strides

Leader sportswriter

After a solid first week of fall practice under first-year head coach Jack Keith, the Carlisle Bison picked up where they left off on Monday, and put a lot of emphasis on conditioning and understanding the offense.

“We had a really good week last week,” said Keith. “They worked hard, and we never had a practice that seemed like it drug on. We got things done, and just had a really good, solid week.

“It was a good place to start off. We’ve got a long ways to go, but we got off on the right foot.”

Offensively, the Bison’s primary offense is still the Double Wing, which was the primary offense under Carlisle’s two previous head coaches, and with all of the offensive work that’s been put in since fall practice began, Keith says his team is getting close to where it needs to be on that side of the ball.

“We’re close to where we want to be on offense,” Keith said. “Last week, we had a lot of time where we had to be in just helmets and shoulder pads – a lot less contact. So we were able to get more of our schemes down offensively.”

The Arkansas Activities Association recently approved a new rule that limits full-contact practices for teams in the state. Therefore, teams within the state have had to make adjustments to how they approach practice sessions, but teams are allowed more contact for the second week of fall practices.

“We’re going to have to get defense caught up a little bit now that we can do a little more hitting and be a little more physical,” Keith said. “We’ve got to get that caught up.”

Other than working on defense, Keith would like to see his team get a full understanding of the offense by the end of practice sessions this week.

“We want to have our offense down 100 percent,” Keith said, “you know, to where we don’t have any mental mistakes on our schemes. And defensively, we want to get to where we’re more physical and flying around more – get our scheme down 100 percent there – make sure we’re lined up in the right spots and make sure we know where we need to be.

“We’re on top of things. Like I said, offensively, we’re really close to where we need to be. Defensively, we’ve got a little ways to go, but technique and physicality is what we’ve got to get fixed up with them.”

As far as the conditioning aspect, Keith said he wants his team to be in better shape than any other team it plays this season, and he believes that can make a big difference in how his team performs against some of the tougher team’s on the Bison’s schedule this fall.

“We’re getting as many practices in as the triple A (Arkansas Activities Association) will let us get in,” Keith said. “We’re still working out, lifting weights, running. We’ve got to be in good shape and outwork everybody we play.

“We want to be in better shape than anyone that lines up against us. We’re going to have to grind some out and we’re going to have to win the fourth quarter. We’ve got to be in better shape than anyone we play, so when it comes down to the fourth quarter, the end of the game, we’ll still be able to do things right and get the job done.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

FEATURED STORY >> Almost half century of service

Leader staff writer

Retiring Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines swore in Jacksonville realtor Jim Peacock for his 48th year on the Pulaski County Equalization Board during recent meeting at the county’s administration building in Little Rock.

Other members of the board were also sworn in, including Jurdon (Bud) Perry of Jacksonville, who has served for 27 years. Peacock said Friday was the last time Villines would swear in the board’s members.

The local realtor, who was also elected as chairman of the Equalization Board, confirmed that he has served the longest term on the board.

The board performs a check-and-balance function for the county assessor’s office, he explained.

The Board of Equalization, in session from Aug. 1 until Oct. 1 every year, hears appeals from taxpayers who believe the assessed value of their property should be different from what the assessor’s office determined it to be.

This year’s deadline to request an appeal hearing is Aug. 18. The board has a representative in the assessor’s office who fields calls about scheduling those hearings.
Peacock explained that, during its session, the board becomes the assessor. Members have control of the books for those two months.

The assessor’s office can’t change values during the board’s session unless there is an error that needs to be corrected, Peacock said.

How much a person pays in property taxes is based on those assessed values.

The board can split into three committees and hear appeals from 50 people in one day, the realtor noted. It is busiest during an assessment year, when values see the most significant changes.
The most recent assessment year was 2012, and the assessments are on a five-year rotation, Peacock said.

The board can also direct the assessor’s office to reassess the value of a neighborhood based on how much homes there are selling for.

The assessor’s office can appeal the board’s decisions to the circuit court, but that hasn’t happened since Peacock been on the board.
The realtor said Jacksonville Mayor John Harden appointed him to the board in 1966.
Back then, the members met in the basement of the county courthouse building. Their meeting room was always filled with cigar smoke, Peacock recalled.
Now they meet in the administration building a couple of doors down. With every new location the board moved to over the years, the realtor said meetings became more accessible to the public.
Another change Peacock has seen is that the board doesn’t look at personal property as often as it did in the beginning. The number of personal property appeals decreased to just two or three a year after guidelines were put in place, he said.
Every once in a while, a taxpayer will argue about the value of their used vehicle and the board will consult a used car dealer to see if the assessed value should be adjusted, Peacock noted.
The realtor said, now, most of the appeals that go to the board concern residential, commercial and industrial properties, and in that order from the most to least frequent.
Peacock also said he has served on the board under five judges and alongside three assessors.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a good working relationship with all the assessors since I’ve been on here,” he added.

Villines was the longest-serving judge he worked under, the realtor noted.

About the board, Peacock said he stuck around for so long because “I liked it. It was interesting. It kept me abreast of changes in value in real estate in the whole county.

“That was my business. It was just like a school. You learned what was going on in different parts. You learned where values were going up, where values were static, where values were going down. It just kept me abreast of the real estate market, free of charge.”

One of the toughest decisions the board has made concerned a recent appeal for a residential property in the western part of the county.

Peacock explained that the homeowner would not allow the assessor’s office to take measurements. All that office had to judge value from was information provided by the real estate agent who sold the property. But the new owner disagreed with the assessment that was based on that information. He appealed to the board.

The board based its decision on an appraisal and survey the homeowner’s attorney brought before the members during an appeal hearing.

Peacock said the decision was difficult because “when you don’t have accurate figures, it puts a real burden on, not only the board, to make a quality decision, but on the assessor.”
The realtor also reminisced about an unusual appeal involving a well-known surgeon who had bought a house in a “premier” neighborhood.

The doctor thought the assessed value of his property was much lower than the assessor’s determination. He invited the board inside his 5,000-square-foot house to make his case.
“He had a table and a chair and a coffee pot and a spoon, a fork and a knife and a plate. And that was it. And he bought that at the Salvation Army or Goodwill…So his assessment was accurate,” Peacock said.

He later learned that the doctor was a divorced bachelor.

Peacock said, while taxpayers can invite the board to their properties, it’s rare. “If they’re somewhere close (to the assessor’s value), we take their word for it.”

He also described some of the people he met while on the board, individuals who made an impression on him.

Former board member Julian Alexander, a Jewish businessman who owned a laundry mat, was one standout.

Peacock said he suspected Alexander was a refugee who came to the U.S. during World War II, but Alexander never talked about his past.

Peacock said he remembers the former board member’s extensive knowledge of the older part of the county and for his life philosophy, which was “you always start out the morning with a smile and a prayer.”

Peacock also remembered Redding Stevenson, a former board member and past president of the Pulaski County Board of Realtors. Stevenson, Peacock explained, inspired him to become president of the Board of Realtors.

In 1978, when Peacock was chairman of the Equalization Board and president of the realtors board, he was shot five times by a gunman who terrorized his realty office one day. The shooter has since passed away, the realtor said.

Peacock also said current board member Buster Bennett is another standout, being a self-made man who invented a machine that finds gold, oil and gas underground.

The realtor said Bennett is in negotiations with the federal government to sell the machine, which also detects gunpowder from three miles away and somehow makes clouds disappear.

Peacock added that he didn’t believe the machine dissipated clouds until he saw it do just that after a board meeting one day.

FEATURED STORY >> Area soldier died in World War I

Cabot Museum of American History

The Criswell/Robinson American Legion Post 71 in Cabot is named in part in honor of Ross Hardie Robinson, who was killed in action in World War I.

Robinson was born in Lonoke County on July 3, 1891.

By the time he entered the service on Sept. 26, 1917, he was living in Little Rock and was a salesman for the Farmer Grain Company.

His draft registration papers described him as tall and slender with black hair and blue eyes.
Robinson saw service on Europe’s Western Front as a corporal in Company B, 608th Engineers American Expeditionary Force.

He died on Dec. 15, 1918, at Chaumont, France. Robinson was one of the thousands of American soldiers whose remains were not immediately returned to the United States.

Almost three years after his death, he was finally laid to rest on June 14, 1921, at Pleasant Hill Cemetery just off Hwy. 89 south of Cabot.

If you have photos, letters, diaries or other items you would like to share, call Mike Polston at 501-286-9665 or Sherryl Miller at 501-676-6750.